Marinated Shrimp with Lime Vinaigrette

Marinated Shrimp with Lime Vinaigrette

Marinated Shrimp with Lime Vinaigrette

I made this as part of a Full Taco Buffet table, I also had taco meat, marinated pulled chicken, seasoned refried beans and all the toppings you could imagine.  The shrimp disappeared quickly!

If you can marinate the shrimp over night in the fridge, that would be ideal, but you can get away with marinating them for two – three hours in the refrigerator.  Shrimp response to marinades pretty quickly.

INGREDIENTS

While this recipe is intended to use the full 2LB bag of shrimp for an appetizer or large family dinner. You can cut it down as you wish. Left overs are still yummy for a few days!

Marinade

  • 2 LB Large RAW Shrimp (~35 count), defrosted, deveined and peeled. (If you use frozen, you can quickly defrost them by putting them in a colander and running them under water for a few minutes. I toss them often while the water is running)
  • 6 Cloves Garlic Crushed, roughly chopped
  • 1 TBS Lime Juice (I don’t use too much lime juice in the marinade, as the acidity can cook the shrimp)
  • 1 TBS lime Zest (this will give it some lime flavor without cooking it)
  • 1/4 cup Dry White Wine
  • 3 TBS Olive Oil
  • 2 TBS Seafood Seasoning (old bay or Seafood Rub )

Vinaigrette

  • 4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBS Lime Juice (juice of 2 – 3 limes)
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
  • fresh ground pepper

STEPS

  1.  Rinse and pat dry the shrimp.
  2. In a gallon zip lock bag, mix in the Marinade ingredients and squish around to mix well.
  3. Add in the shrimp, remove the air and zip the bag.  Squish the shrimp around in the bag to be sure all the shrimp is coated with the seasoning.  Place it in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours or over night.
  4. Prepare the Vinaigrette:  In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil and garlic over low heat.  You do not want to saute the garlic, but you want it to be soft and take a little of the sharp edge off.  Cook the garlic  for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic is soft.  Remove the pan from the heat and pour the oil and garlic mixture in a bowl to cool.  Let cool until it comes to room temperature (about 10 – 15 minutes).
  5. While the oil is cooling off, cook the shrimp.  Remember, Shrimp cooks very fast so me sure to watch it while you cook and pull it out of the pan as soon as it is ready.  Have a large bowl ready next to the stove, and place a large saute pan on the stove over med-high heat.
  6. When the pan is hot, about 1 minute, add in the shrimp (you may need to do in batches) with the marinade into the pan.  Let the shrimp sear on one side, and as it turns pink, flip it over and do the same to the other side.  It is about 1.5 minutes per side for large shrimp. Note: use tongs, not a spoon or spatula. You really need to be able to turn each shrimp over to ensure it is properly cooked. Not sure if it is cooked? Pull one out and cut it in half. The middle should be white not clear or opaque. Then give it a quick try!
  7. When the shrimp is done, nicely pink on both sides, pull out the shrimp and put into the bowl. (It will continue to cook slightly once you remove it from the stove). Toss any remaining marinade left in the pan.
  8. Finish the vinaigrette:  In the bowl with the olive oil and garlic, add in the remaining vinaigrette ingredients, whisk until it is well blended then pour over the shrimp and toss.

To serve – you can just put them on a serving platter with toothpicks and watch them dissapear. They can be room temp or even slightly chilled if you make the day in advance.

OR

  • Use them to make shrimp tacos or burritos
  • Toss with Pasta for a great meal
  • Top a salad good on any kind of salad, caesar salad comes to mind
  • Add to Rice Pilaf or Risotto 
  • Dice them up, and toss with mayo, finely diced celery, red onion, bell peppers for a Shrimp Salad Sandwich

 

ENJOY!

Corn Lime Salad

Minnesota Approved!

Minnesota Approved!

I was making a Taco Bar for a dinner party I put together while visiting friends and family in Minnesota. This side dish was a hit.  It is easy to make and great for summer barbecues or for a quick addition to a week night dinner.

INGREDIENTS

  1. In a small saute
  2. pan add the olive oil and garlic and heat over med-low heat for about 4 minutes, just until the garlic starts to get soft.  Set aside to cool
  3. Add the lime Juice, Lemon Juice, cilantro to a bowl, season with salt and pepper.  When the oil is cool, add in the oil and whisk until blended.
  4. Taste and adjust with additional lime/lemon juice and/or salt and pepper.
  5. Place a med  large strainer in the sink, pour the frozen corn into the strainer and run cold water over the corn until the corn is defrosted. Toss often.  About 3 – 4 minutes.  Drain, and pat dry.
  6. In a large bowl, add in the corn, scallions, cucumbers, olive and tomatoes. Stir to mix, then drizzle the vinaigrette over and toss to distribute the dressing evenly.
  7. Taste and adjust as needed.
  8. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Since this dish contains no dairy, this is a great idea for summer picnics or barbecues.

Nicole’s Easy Chicken Cacciatore

Nicole's Chicken Cacciatore

Nicole’s Chicken Cacciatore

This is a one pot dish (unless you serve with pasta, then it’s a two pot dish) that is sooo good. Everyone I have made it for really likes it. The ingredient that is not expected are the green olives. I love olives to begin with, so adding them to any sauce, dip or whatever, makes me very happy.

You can use whatever type of chicken you wish, it all works. If you go to this link ( SIMPLE MOIST SAUTÉED / GRILLED CHICKEN ) it will explain the different cuts and how to prepare them to cook just right.

INGREDIENTS

        ❑        2 chicken breasts cut into 6 pieces (cut “tail” off the breast then slice thickness wise, cut the thick part in half)

        ❑        Salt and Pepper

        ❑        2 TBS All Purpose Flour

        ❑        1.5 TBS Butter, unsalted (You can omit this item, but trust me you don’t want to)

        ❑        1 – 2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

        ❑        1/2 cup Large Spanish Green Olive, with pimentos, sliced into 1/2 moons (cut in half length-wise, then width-wise slice )

        ❑        1 cup White Onions, diced

        ❑        1 package sliced Mushrooms (or 1 package mushrooms, cleaned and sliced) any kind you like

        ❑        1 Bell Pepper, diced (any red, orange or yellow is best, but green works two)

        ❑ 4 – 6 cloves of garlic, sliced

        ❑        1 15oz can of Diced Tomatoes, can be plain or have Italian seasoning

        ❑        1 15oz can low-fat and low sodium Chicken Broth

        ❑        1/2 cup White Wine

        ❑        6-8 leaves of Basil, roughly torn

        ❑        1 tsp Sugar

        ❑        1/2 cup Grated or Shredded Parmesan

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour with about 1/2 TBS of salt and 1 tsp pepper. (you can leave out the flour if you want, but be sure to season the chicken as in step 2)
  2. Using a pair of tongs, add the chicken to the bowl and toss to evenly coat the chicken. If you don’t have tongs, OK, use your hands, just be sure to wash them very well before handing other ingredients.
  3. In a large Sauté or Fry pan, add in the olive oil so you have enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat over med-high heat until the oil starts to shimmer.
  4. Using the tongs, add the chicken to the pan. Let brown on the first side about 2 – 3 minutes, then flip and brown on the second side another 2 minutes. Remove to a plat or platter and loosely cover (tent) with tin foil. Remember, you don’t need to fully cook the chicken at this point as you will add them back into the sauce to finish cooking.
  5. In the same pan over med-high heat, add in the butter, onions, olives, and mushrooms. Sauté until the onions, and mushrooms begin to caramelize (about 5 – 7 minutes)
  6. Add in the garlic and bell peppers and sauté for another 2 – 3 minutes.
  7. Deglaze the pan by adding in the wine, and scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Then add in the diced tomatoes and their juice, and the chicken stock.
  8. Bring to a simmer, then add in the pinch of sugar and continue simmering until the liquid is reduced by 1/3. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add in the Basil, stir and simmer another 3 minutes.
  9. Add in the grated Parmesan cheese, stir to combine.
  10. Add the chicken back in to the pan and include any yummy juices that accumulated on the plate. Stir and simmer over med heat for about 3 more minutes, or unit the chicken is warmed through.

Serve over penne or over rice. You can use any type of pasta, but I like the kind where the sauce has a place to go making each bite even better as you get more of the sauce in each bite.

This has a lot of vegetables in it, so you really don’t need an additional side – but I will leave that up to you.

Left overs can be frozen for a future dinner. When you remove from the freezer you can defrost in the refrigerator over night, or add the frozen bag to a pan with very low simmering water. It not only defrosts, but reheats as well. Microwave is not preferred, but if you don’t have the time, go ahead, place the frozen item on a plate (if it leaks), and defrost at power level 1. Start at 3 – 4 minutes, and add more time if necessary.

** NOTE: You can make this vegetarian by omitting the chicken, and using vegetable stock.

 

Lemon Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata. http://pdphoto.org

Chicken Piccata. http://pdphoto.org (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is one of my son’s favorite dishes (minus the capers). I have never seen food disappear so fast (except chocolate). It can be served over rice, pasta and with a side of simple steamed green beans tossed with a little, butter salt and pepper. Whenever I make this, I make a LOT of it so I can freeze it. It makes a very quick dinner. It can be defrosted over night in the fridge, in a pot of low simmering water. I have been known to use the microwave in a pinch, just keeping the power level at 1 or 2. If defrosted, easy to reheat on the stove top over med or med-low heat within minutes.

LEMON PICCATA CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package Skinless Chicken Breasts or Skinless/Boneless Thighs (about 2 full breasts, or 4-6 chicken thighs)
  • 2 TBSOlive Oil
  • 2 TBS Butter
  • 1 cup (approx. 2 cans) Chicken Stock, low-fat and low sodium
  • 1 whole lemon, peeled, thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 TBS Capers (optional)
  • 1/3 cup fresh Parsley
  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper, Fresh Ground

EQUIPMENT

1 10-12 inch non-stick Sauté Pan

1 pair non-stick tongs

2 Plates

Baking Sheet with wire rack

Meat Tenderizer

Plastic Wrap

Apron

Tin Foil

  1. If using the chicken breasts, slice in half so you separate the fat end from the tapered end, then cut the fat end in half width wise, so one breast half produces 3 pieces of chicken. If using the chicken thighs, cut in half.
  2. Placing the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap, pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until the chicken pieces are all the same thickness.
  3. Put the flour into a bowl, and season with salt and pepper (about 1 TBS of salt and 1/2 TBS Pepper). Mix well.
  4. Dredge the chicken pieces into the flour mixture and shake off excess and place on the wire rack until all pieces are floured.
  5. Add 1 TBS of the butter and 1 TBS of the Olive Oil, then heat the pan over med-high heat until the oil and butter start to sizzle.
  6. Add in the chicken pieces so not to crowd, and let brown about 2 – 3 minutes on one side, then flip and 2 – 3 minutes on the second side to brown. Remove chicken to a plate to hold until ready to add back into the sauce.
  7. In batches, place 4 chicken pieces in the pan (it will splatter so be sure to wear your apron), and let sear 3 – 4 minutes until the chicken releases from the pan and the bottom is browned.
  8. Flip the chicken and cook another 3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter and tent with tin foil.
  9. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces, adding more oil and butter as necessary.
  10. When all the chicken is browned, deglaze the pan (add) the white wine to the pan and scrape up the little bits, then add in the chicken stock, lemon slices, garlic and capers. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium for about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
  11. Add the chicken back in and continue to simmer with the chicken about 3 – 4 more minutes. Top with fresh parsley and serve.

To reduce calories, you can omit the flour and butter. Although butter does add a great touch.

Crispy Baked Chicken Fries – all the taste, not all the fat

Baked Crispy Chicken Fries

Baked Crispy Chicken Fries

My son loves Burger King’s chicken fries, however, they no longer carry them. So what is a busy mom to do when that teenage urge for chicken fries rears it’s ugly head? Figure out a way to make them at home where my stove and kitchen counter don’t end up covered in oil splatter… oh yea, they are healthier for him too.

These are easy and quick to make, so make a bunch and freeze the rest in a zip lock bag with all of the extra air removed.  When the urge hits, just take out the amount you want, put on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the center of the chicken is hot.

Some things that make this easier:

Parchment paper or Tin Foil

1/2 Sheet Pan

Olive Oil Spray (like Pam or store brand)

Tongs (your hands stay clean and the tongs get all goey instead!)

Crispy Chicken Fries

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package Skinless/Boneless chicken tenders (You can cut to any size you want, but not necessary – not cutting them is less work on the coating end)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 – 1.5 cups Italian seasoned Bread Crumbs, panko or your choice of coating (OR season with standard ItalianSeasoning, parm cheese, salt and pepper)
  • 3 TBS flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • can Olive Oil Spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  1. Cover the sheet/baking pan with tinfoil or parchment paper. Then lightly spray with the olive oil spray.
  2. In a bowl, add the flour and about 1 TBS salt and 1/5 TBS of pepper. Toss to combine.
  3. Add the chicken to the flour mixture and toss to coat the chicken.
  4. Set up 2 shallow dishes or dinner plates as follows:
    • Whip the eggs with about 1 TBS water, and put into a shallow dish
    • In the second dish, spread out the crumbs
  5. One at a time, using the tongs, remove one strip of the chicken, dip in the egg mixture until fully coated, lift to shake off any excess.
  6. Press into the crumb mixture, flip and press again until all sides are covered.
  7. Move to the parchment/tin foil covered sheet pan.
  8. Repeat until all the chicken has been dipped and breaded.
  9. lightly spray the tops of the chicken with the olive oil spray
  10. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Check doneness. This is easily done by removing one and cutting into it. If done, its done. Remove. If not, let it cook another 5 minutes.

To serve, ketchup is a standard or spice it up with mixing it with barbecue sauce and some hot sauce. Using a little teriyaki or soy sauce gives it a little boost as well.

Enjoy!

Below is an idea for standard Italian dried herb mixture. I usually doctor up the store-bought crumb mixtures and grated parmesan cheese never hurt either..

  • 1 TBS Thyme powder or Thyme leaves
  • 1 TBS dried oregano
  • 1 TBS dried parsley
  • 1 TBS dried Marjoram (optional)
  • 1 TBS dried basil
  • 2 tsp granulated onion powder
  • 1 TBS granulated garlic powder

Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links

 

SIMPLE MOIST SAUTÉED / GRILLED CHICKEN

Construction Simplicity

Construction Simplicity (Photo credit: tombothetominator)

This is a recipe that can stand on its own even though it may seem to simple to taste as good as it does, but it is. You can do almost anything with this chicken all it takes is your imagination and the ingredients you probably already have in your house.

If you are uncomfortable with cooking chicken afraid you will over cook it and it will be dry and/or rubbery, there are some very simple steps you can take to avoid these all too common situations.

The most Critical is picking the right cut of chicken and prepping it properly:

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs may have a bad rap because it is dark meat and said to be fatty. With the skin and any visible fat removed, it is really not that much more fatty than chicken breasts. They have a TON more flavor and because it has a little fat in it, it is a more forgiving cut when cooking.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are perfectly fine if you really don’t like dark meat, as long as you take the steps to make sure that all the pieces are the same thickness. For a chicken breast, this is easily accomplished and actually gives your more servings. What i do, is about 1/2 way down the breast, where it starts to narrow, I cut the breast in half. Then I take the fat half, and cut it in half thickness wise. So you end up with about 3 palm sized pieces approx. the same thickness. This will help make sure that when you cook them, they all cook at the same speed and they will cook faster than the full breast.

Chicken Tenders by default are boneless and skinless. They are a strip removed from chicken breasts and have the same fat content of chicken breasts. I typically just leave these as is. They too have a fat end that tapers off, but not as significant as the breast.

In addition to choosing the right cut, other steps can be taken to make sure a juicy result. While these are not included in the below recipe, they are pretty easy to incorporate but do require advanced preparation.

Marinade chicken responds very well to flavors and do benefit from marinating as some of the moisture is drawn into the chicken. To get a good result the chicken needs to marinate for 2 hours at a minimum. I prefer over night as I can assemble it all in a zip lock bag while dinner is cooking and toss it in the fridge. Just be sure to release as much air out of the zip lock bag before sealing so the chicken is surrounded. If I remember, I flip the bag over before i go to bed so the liquid squishes around and remixed.

Brine the chicken over night. A basic bring is a mixture of salt, sugar and water (you can add other spices and herbs as well). During the brining process the chicken will suck in extra liquid (and salt and a hint of the seasoning) which helps to produce a very juicy chicken. When you remove the chicken from the brine, rinse it under cold water and pat dry.

Finally – its all in the wrist… well sort of. Here are a few tips for cooking chicken

Temperature of the PAN – It is soo tempting to leave the burner on high as doesn’t it cook faster? NO – it burns faster. You can use High heat to heat the pan/grill pan to get it nice and hot. But lower to med-high or even medium once you add the chicken. You will have more control.

Temperature of the Chicken – invest a couple of dollars on a meat thermometer. You know the stick kind found in every grocery store Kitchen isle? They don’t cost much and will help you learn to gauge what the chicken feels like and looks like when its done. Chicken needs to be at 165 degrees when placed in the thickest part before serving But take it off at 160 degree (you will notice some of the juice runs out when you remove the thermometer if it is all clear, the chicken is done. If it is rosy or red – keep going). It will continue to cook. If you wait until the it reaches 165 before removing from the grill, it’s over cooked and you risk drying it out.

Letting it REST! Once you remove the chicken from the pan, place on a dish and very loosely cover with tin foil. this is called tenting. It keeps the heat in while the chicken rests and the juices flow back into the meat. The chicken will continue to cook for about 5 minutes after you remove it from the heat. DON’T be tempted to cut into it for at least 5 minutes. I know its hard to resist, especially if you are hungry, but WAIT. Cutting in too early you lose all of the juice you worked soo hard to get right.

Now on to the easiest chicken recipe you can find. And it is yummy!

SIMPLE SAUTÉED CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package Skinless Chicken Tenders (about 6-8 pieces) or whatever chicken cut you chose – works on all of them
  • 1/2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper, Fresh Ground

EQUIPMENT

1 10-12 inch non-stick Sauté Pan OR Grill Pan

1 pair non-stick tongs

Plate

Apron

Tin Foil

Water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Toss the chicken tenders with the olive oil, a few pinches of salt and pepper
  2. Heat the pan over med-high heat until the pan is very hot
  3. In batches, place 4 chicken tenders in the pan (it will splatter so be sure to wear your apron), and let sear 3 – 4 minutes until the chicken releases from the pan and the bottom is browned.
  4. Flip the chicken and cook another 3 minutes. Check to make sure the chicken is at 160 degrees and remove the chicken to a platter and tent with tin foil.
  5. Repeat with remaining chicken tenders. **If the pan is starting to burn from the previous batch, add about a 1/2 cup of water to rinse out the pan before you start the next batch

Eat as is – or use one of the MANY combinations for dinners that contain chicken.

IDEAS (also great for any left over chicken)

  • Cobb, Chopped or Caesar Salad topped with Chicken (any salad really)
  • Chicken Salad with diced onion, celery, pickles, mayo
  • Chicken Sandwich with avocado spread, lettuce, tomato, onion
  • Chicken burritos with rice and beans
  • Chicken Tacos toss with some taco seasoning (Tex-Mex / Mexican Spice Blend)
  • Chicken with dipping sauces – Barbecue, Asian, Curry
  • Add different herbs and spices before sautéing
  • Quesadilla
  • fajitas
  • Stir Fry

When re-heating chicken, you still want to keep it moist. So how? Remove from the fridge about 30 – 40 minutes before reheating to bring it to room temp. then try any of the below.

  • Dicing it up and adding it to a sauce or stir-fry a minute or two before serving
  • Tossing with some hot chicken broth (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
  • Adding a little extra virgin olive oil to a pan over medium heat and gently stirring/tossing until just warmed (about 2 minutes)
  • If you need to, you can use the microwave, but no more than 25 – 30 seconds to start, then 10 seconds after that as needed on power level 7.

Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwich with a Cognac Cheese Sauce

Can it be a sandwich with just one slice of bread?

Can it be a sandwich with just one slice of bread?

This is not diet friendly as written, but can easily be made lighter using some of the hints I include after the main recipe.  This is very tasty and easy to make, and turning on the stove to make the sauce may deter you, but be brave. It really doesn’t take much time and so worth it.  I decided to make my own roast beef because I found a good deal on a roast. And actually it inspired me to write this blog, because after I bought it, I thought – now what am I going to do with it? This idea quickly came to me.

Here is a link to a great simple recipe http://thedomesticman.com/2012/01/10/perfect-eye-of-round-roast if you would like to make your own using a low-fat and inexpensive cut of beef.

This works just as well as using deli or left over steak/roasts.  The benefit to making your own roast is that you can use the pan drippings to enhance the sauce.  If not, don’t worry, some beef stock works just as well.

As stated this is an open-faced sandwich, that good for two reasons; only 1 piece of bread, and it gets a little messy to pick up.  You can use two pieces of bread, just make sure your sauce more like a spread consistency than a sauce. Either way – it is still very good.

INGREDIENTS

(makes two sandwiches)

2 slices of your favorite bread at least 1/2 – 3/4 inch thick – I used chiabatta, toasted or grilled (sourdough or pumpernickel are also good choices)

1/4 LB sliced roast beef (using deli roast beef really saves some time!)

a handful of Baby Arugula

SAUCE

1 TBS unsalted butter or bacon fat (unnecessary if you are using the pan juices from cooking the meat)

3 mushrooms sliced

1/4 small onion sliced into 1/2 moons

1 clove of garlic, sliced thinly (unnecessary if you are using the pan juices from cooking the meat)

1/2 tsp dried thyme or oregano leaves

1 TBS Cognac

1 TBS Dijon mustard

.5 TBS horseradish (prepared is fine)

1/4 Cup cream (heavy or light whipping cream)

4 thinly sliced pieces of swiss cheese, roughly broken (or Asiago, Provolone, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Havarti, Gruyère are other options)

salt and pepper to taste (may not be needed if you are using the pan juices from cooking the meat, taste before adding)

STEPS

  1. This may sound weird, but I have found this technique as a great way to re-heat steak without over cooking it. It will cook slightly. In a quart sized freezer zip lock bag, put in the steak/meat you wish to reheat, squeeze out the air and seal it. It is like to sude-vide.
  2. In a 2 – 4 quart sauce pot, fill it 1/2 way with water and heat over med heat until it comes just to a very light simmer.
  3. Place the plastic bag into the water and turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat and let sit in the water for 2 – 5 minutes (shorter if the slices of meat are very thin) or until the contents are warmed through. Check after 2 minutes. It may cook slightly, but it will take far less of a beating than zapping it in the microwave or re-searing it on the stove top (although you can re-sear on the stove top if you have a big chunk of meat and bring to room temperature first).
  4. While the roast beef is re-heating, get out a medium sauce pan (or use the pan you roasted the beef in), and add in the butter, mushrooms, onions and heat over med-high heat until the mushrooms and onions start to sweat and get soft ( about 3 minutes)
  5. Reduce the heat to med and add in the garlic and thyme/oregano and let cook about 3 minutes more until the garlic is soft.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the cognac and let the cognac reduce to 1/2. Keep Stirring so it doesn’t burn.
  7. Whisk in the mustard, cream, horseradish and cheese. Keep whisking and bring to a simmer.  Let reduce slightly to thicken so it coats the back of a spoon (about 2 – 3 minutes).
  8. Toast the bread.
  9. Top the bread with the arugula, roast beef and finally top with the cheese sauce.

EAT and enjoy!

OPTIONAL CHANGES

NO SANDWICH – Use the sauce ingredients and method for just making a great sauce for a perfectly grilled Steak.

The almost no Cook method.

Don’t want to make the sauce over the stove, no problem, replace the sauce ingredients with the below substitution and turn this into a Panini:

  • 1 TBS Dijon or Deli Mustard
  • .5 TBS horseradish (prepared is fine)
  • OR Replace the two items above with 1.5 TBS of a Horseradish Deli Mustard
  • 1.5 TBS Mayo
  • 1 TBS finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • a couple drops of Tabasco (pending your liking of hot sauce)
  1. Combine all in a bowl
  2. Spread on one side of two bread slices
  3. Divide the arugula pieces between the two slices of bread
  4. Put one slice of cheese on top of the arugula on both slices of bread
  5. Pile on the roast beef on top of one slice, then place the second slice of bread on top.
  6. Put into a Panini press, or grill on the stove top.
  7. Any left over spread? Great – you can make another!

LIGHTEN THE LOAD

Not into all the fat used?  No problem You can substitute the calorie laden ingredients with their reduced fat versions. I do not like non-fat substitutions because the texture is more grainy and they add a lot of sodium.  Reduced fat does have more sodium that full fat versions, however, still in a better range than non-fat.  Keep an eye on low-fat vs reduced fat.  Check the labels.

You can omit the cheese – but,  WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT?

Instead of mayo, use a couple of tablespoons of soft tofu and blend to give you a creamy spread.  This is a great trick for all kinds of creamy sauces.

Use one of the abundant vegan/vegetarian substitutes that have stormed the markets.

Cinco De Mayo Pulled Chicken

Shredded Chicken Tacos

Shredded Chicken Tacos (Photo credit: Tristen.Pelton)

This is actually a recipe I created for one of my cousin’s grooms dinners. They wanted a Mexican theme and my gosh, they got it. The entire dinner went over well. If they are not already out there, you may see more over the weeks to come.

Grab a Dos Equis (I like it better than Corona any day) and build yourself a taco, burritos or 7 layer dip and enjoy the night!

MEXICAN PULLED CHICKEN

You can also use the below on COD or Shrimp to change-up your taco bar choices.

INGREDIENTS

Marinade

  • 1 TBS Lime Juice
  • 1/2 TBS Lemon Juice
  • 1 TBS Chili Powder or Tex-Mex – Mexican
  • 4 – 6 Garlic Cloves, crushed/put through a garlic press
  • 1 cup Cilantro leaves loosely packed
  • 1/4 Red Pepper Flakes or Cayenne pepper
  • 1 TBS Vegetable Oil or Light Olive Oil
  • 1 package Skinless/Boneless Thighs (~6 chicken thighs and any visible fat removed) – you can use skin/bone in thighs, just let cool and pull meat off after it is cooked.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper, Fresh Ground

Cooking

  • 2+ TBS Vegetable Oil or Light Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper, Fresh Ground

EQUIPMENT

1 GAL Zip Lock Freezer Bag

1 10-12 inch Sauté Pan

1 pair tongs

1 Plates

1 Large Bowl

Apron

Tin Foil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Trim/separate chicken from extra fat if necessary.
  2. Combine all ingredients above in the 1 GAL Zip Lock bag. Close the Zip lock and squish to mix well.
  3. Add the Chicken to the Zip-Lock Bag, Zip to close while squeezing out any extra air. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or over night. (Can be frozen at this point, remove the day before cooking to thaw and marinate in the refrigerator).
  4. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking, leaving in marinade.
  5. Add 2 TBS of Oil to a 10” skillet and heat over med-high until the oil is hot and starts to shimmer.
  6. Remove the Chicken from marinade (Using the tongs or hands with latex gloves).
  7. Place the chicken, open to lay flat, in the pan 3 at a time (be careful for oil splatter) and cook for about 4+ minutes on each side until just done (160 F).
  8. Set aside on a plate or bowl, and tent with tinfoil. Do in batches if necessary as to not crowd the pan. Repeat steps 5 – 7, only adding more oil if necessary.
  9. When all chicken is done, let cool about 10 minutes while it is still warm, but cool enough to handle.
  10. Shred either by hand or with fork (hand is faster).
  11. Place shredded chicken and cover with any juices that released onto the plate while cooling. This adds a lot of flavor.
  12. TOSS OUT ANY left over marinade.

Proceed to use the shredded chicken in many dishes:

  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Topping a Salad
  • Quesadillas
  • Sandwiches
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Pizza Topping
  • Stuffed Bread
  • 7 – layer Dip
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Quiche

The List is endless!

Voluntary Poll

In addition to this blog site, I am planning on offering a series of cooking classes, initially in my town of Stamford Connecticut. In trying to gather potential interest and fine tune the concept, I am requesting your opinion. This information is for my use only and I would appreciate any comments you may have. The general concept is to offer a two-part class (2 hours on Monday Instructional, 2.5 hours on Wednesday Hands-On).

The first part would be instructional with me showing cooking techniques, explaining the different foods we would be cooking (depending on the class focus), importance of food safety, food prep, and reviewing different herbs and spices (allowing each student to smell, taste, etc..). 

The second part of the class would allow students to practice these skills, techniques and experiment with flavors. They could then build their own spice mix to bring home, but also learn about new spices and flavors.

I would expect an audience of beginner cooks or cooks looking to expand their repertoire to encourage  tasty, healthy dinners that can be made in under an hour during a busy week night.  The class would also look at how to re-use left overs to keep it exciting, but also dramatically reduce cooking time during the week.

I would aim that each person share their end product with the class, so the class is exposed to all the different flavors each has created.

I would start with Three Series:

1.) Focus on Chicken / Pork (different cuts, different cooking methods, benefits of brining, quick sauces, seasoning)

2.) Focus on Red Meat (different cuts, how to prep and cook the different cuts, quick sauces, seasoning)

3.) Focus on Side Dishes / Salads  (rice, potatoes, veggies, blanching, seasoning, steaming, combining different ingredients)

Even if you are not interested in classes, can you please take a minute to complete the below survey?

The cost of the classes would cover:

  • Instruction and guidance
  • Ingredients
  • Herbs / Spices
  • Take home bags
  • Access to Class WebSite
  • Handouts
  • Renting space for the class
  • Equipment (cutting boards, knives, gloves, cleaning supplies, bowls, pans, pots, etc..)

Please click on the items you agree with.  You can select as many or few as you wish.

Tex-Mex, Tacos and Mexican Flavored Spice Mixtures

Run out of taco, fajita, or other Mexican seasoning packets? look no further, the two seasoning mixtures below will replace those in no time. Why not make a big batch and store for other uses. Most of the ingredients are already in your cupboards and/or readily available in your local supermarket.

The other plus to this is, YOU control the salt and ingredients. If you have an herb garden in the summer, and have too much to use at once, dry them and use them in the mixtures.

Store in air tight container, zip lock bag with air removed, or in a vacuum sealed plastic bag.

Taco Seasoning

Makes about 2 cups or enough to season 6 – 7 LBS of ground beef, bring on taco night!

  • ¾ cup chili powder
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • ½ TBS cayenne pepper (or more if you wish)
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS coriander
  • 3 TBS granulated garlic
  • 2 TBS granulated onion
  • 2 TBS dried minced onion
  • 2 TBS dried Oregano
  • 1 TBS ground black pepper
  • 2 TBS Kosher Salt (Can be omitted or you can use less of more depending on your tastes)
  • 2 TBS sugar

Combine all in a bowl to mix well.

Use about 4 – 5 TBS for a LB of ground beef (plus about 1/4 cup of water), chicken, turkey refried beans.

Mexican Seasoning (makes about a cup)

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 TBS granulated onion
  • 2 TBS granulated garlic
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 TBS dried cilantro
  • 1 TBS paprika
  • 2 TBS salt (optional or can be increased or lowered)
  • ½ TBS white pepper (you can use black pepper if you don’t have white pepper)
  • 2 TBS Freeze dried spring onion mix** or dried minced onion
  • 1 TBS chili powder

Combine all in a bowl and mix well.

Good mixed with rice, used on fish, chicken in place of taco seasoning or combined with sour cream for a dip.

Other uses for Mexican Fiesta Night or Cinco de Mayo:

  • Mash about 1 TBS with 2 ripe Avocados, 1/4 cup small diced onions, 1/2 diced tomatoes
  • Rub on Flank/Skirt steak, let sit for about a 1/2 hour, then grill about 3 minutes per side for fajitas
  • Mix with re-fried beans to add a little more flavor in a 7 layer dip or use in burritos
  • Mix 1 TBS with 1 TBS tomato paste. Then sauté in 1/2 TBS extra virgin olive oil, 1 TBS unsalted butter, 1/2 cup fine dice onions. Then add in 2 cups of rice and 2.5 cups of water (or follow directions for the rice you are using) for a great mexican rice side dish. You can also use chicken stock instead of water, just make sure the amount of liquid you add is appropriate for the amount of dried rice.
  • Sprinkle some on a salad of diced tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, cilantro, splash of lemon/lime juice for a quick salsa
  • Sprinkle on baked potatoes with or without the works (sour cream, butter, chives, bacon..)

Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links

Curry Spice Mixture and Chicken Vindaloo

Curry in the spice-bazaar (egypitan) in Istanbul

Curry in the spice-bazaar (egypitan) in Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sure, you can buy this off the shelf at the super market, but when I do that, I always find myself adding more ingredients. So to save me time and counter space, i created this curry mixture that I use and my son gobbles it up. You may increase the heat if you wish. I have to keep it somewhat low so I can at least taste it. After the list of the mix is a recipe for my version of Chicken Vindaloo.

it is sooo good and always a clean plate dish. The best part, make extra as it gets even better the next day or two. Freezing extra is good too.

Curry Mix (makes about 1 cup)

  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS coriander
  • ½ TBS cardamom
  • 1 TBS tomato powder (can be omitted if you cannot find it)
  • 2 TBS turmeric powder
  • 1 TBS dry mustard
  • 1 TBS cayenne (about depending on how hot you want the mix)
  • 1 TBS ginger powder
  • 1 ½ tsp fenugreek (can be omitted if you cannot find it)
  • 1 TBS white pepper ( can use black pepper if you do not have white)
  • 1 TBS celery seed
  • 1 TBS granulated onion powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ TBS cloves (whole, or 1 tsp ground)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 TBS granulated garlic
  • 2 TBS dried cilantro
  • 1 TBS salt (can be omitted or adjusted according to taste)

Combine all in a bowl and mix well.

Can be used in any recipe that calls for curry powder, used to flavor sauces or sour cream/yogurt for dipping or spreading on naan bread, tossing with blanched cauliflower, sprinkled with breadcrumbs/parm cheese and baked for a very tasty dish.

Below is one of my son’s favorite dishes, my version of chicken Vindaloo. Not authentic, I know, but when I call it that he gets excited and eats it all down so why change the name?

Nicole’s Chicken Vindaloo

Chicken Vindaloo with Sides

Chicken Vindaloo with Sides

Makes enough for 4 – 6 servings (the above picture is for a large group)

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 skinless/boneless chicken thighs, extra fat trimmed off if needed, and cubed into bite sized pieced
  • small package sliced mushrooms, or 1 small package of whole mushrooms, cleaned and sliced. Variety is up to you
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBS butter, salt free
  • 1 TBS fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
  • 1 small white onion, rough dice
  • 1 red, orange, yellow or green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 jalapeños or 2 habenaros depending on how much heat you want (omit if you want to keep it mild)
  • 3 TBS of curry powder (store bought or using the recipe above)
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 can Diced tomatoes (seasoned with basil, garlic and/or oregano)
  • 1 can coconut milk (you can use light if you wish without really impacting the flavor)
  • 3 Med sized red potatoes, cleaned and diced (peel on or off is up to you) OR use cauliflower if you want to keep the starch down
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 can of fat and salt free chicken stock/broth

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add in the olive oil and heat until the oil shimmers ( about 1 – 1.5 minutes)
  2. In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, mix in salt (about 1 TBS) and pepper (about 1/2 TBS). Toss in the chicken pieces to coat.
  3. Using tongs, remove the chicken from the bowl, shaking off any excess flour, and place in the skillet.
  4. Let brown on one side, then flip and let brown on the other side (about 2 minutes per side – doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through as it will finish cooking later)
  5. When done, remove from the pan and place on a clean plate or bowl. DO NOT reuse the bowl you used for tossing as it contained raw chicken, unless you thoroughly clean it with hot soapy water first.
  6. In the same pan still over med heat, add in the butter, ginger, onions, mushrooms and sauté for about 4 minutes.
  7. Add in the garlic, bell and hot peppers and cook for another 1.5 minutes.
  8. Add in the curry powder, two pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper and stir well. Let cook with the other ingredients for about 3 minutes.
  9. Stir in the tomato paste stir well, and cook for another 3 minutes (why so many different steps you ask? Because it releases and builds the flavors to their max before adding in the other liquid ingredients).
  10. Add in the potatoes, stir well to coat them with the herbs and spices cook for another minute or two.
  11. Deglaze (stir in the wine) the pan with the wine, the chicken stock and add in the diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for about 20 minutes (or at least the potatoes are cooked through). TASTE. Add additional cayenne pepper, curry powder, salt, red pepper flakes if more heat is desired. wait about 2 minutes and taste again.
  12. Once all the ingredients have simmered and the sauce has thickened a bit – add the chicken back in (any juices on the plate). continue simmering another 5 minutes.
  13. It is now ready to serve. Over rice or on its own. This is a great one dish meal and helps warm the body on a cold winter night.

Extra or planning in advance – you can make this 2 – 3 days in advance and refrigerate for an easy week day dinner. You can also make extra and freeze for future dinners.

I have not done this, but I imagine you could use beans in place of the chicken and vegetable stock in place of chicken stock to make this vegan/vegetarian.

I serve this over jasmine rice, with my version of Raita and warmed Naan/Pita bread

Tzatziki / Raita Dip

  • 2 TBS Dill Spice Blend
  • 16 oz Plain Yogurt or Sour Cream
  • 4 Scallions, diced
  • 1/2 cup english cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

Combine all in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.  Stir, tasted and adjust with more seasoning if necessary.

Great with warm Naan bread or Pita bread, as a vegetable dip, or a crunchy topping on baked potatoes.

Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links

Italian Seasoning Blend

Herbed zucchini

Herbed zucchini

Italian herb blends are very easy to pick up at the super market, however, I do add a little bit of a twist not found in typical blends. Also, you do not have to use all the herbs listed, you can pick and chose depending on what you have available to you.

I blend this in a mini food processor to make it very simple to cook with fast cooking proteins. Dried herbs do need a little time and moisture to release their full potential. Turning this into an almost powder form reduces the time it takes to release the flavors. At least that is what I have experienced. If you don’t have one – no big deal.

It is a very versatile mix.

Store any extra in an air tight container or in a zip lock bag with the extra air removed.

Go To Italian Seasoning Mix (makes about ½ cup)

  • ½ TBS ground cumin
  • 1 TBS granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 TBS Thyme powder or Thyme leaves
  • 1 TBS dried oregano
  • 1 TBS dried parsley
  • 1 TBS dried Marjoram (optional)
  • 1 TBS dried basil
  • 2 tsp granulated onion powder
  • 2 TBS dried diced onion
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • .5 TBS celery seeds
  • 1 TBS celery salt (optional)
  • 1 TBS kosher salt (optional)

Combine all in a food processor and process until all mixed and large chunks broken down.

Can be sprinkled on pizza, added to tomato sauce for a quick pasta dinner, chicken, fish, shell-fish, chicken salad, used to create Italian dressing or whatever you can think of.

Great on garlic bread too. MMMMMM butter, cheese and the above seasoning on toasted bread.

Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links

Salsa and Dip Seasoning

Do you really need to add seasoning to fresh salsa ingredients? Well, no, but I love how the flavors below elevate the taste. And not just for salsas, can be added to mashed avocados for a quick guacamole, to refried beans for added flavors, potatoes to give them a little zing, or sour cream for a quick dip (let set in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours before serving).

Once you taste it, you may find other useful ideas and ways to use this. Below the salsa seasoning is a recipe for a quick salsa.

The seasoning can be stored in an air-tight container or zip lock bag with extra air removed. Keep in your cupboard for future use.

Salsa Seasoning (makes about ½ cup)

I use this to easily season salsas, guacamole, with sour cream for dips and it can be used on chicken or fish as well.

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 TBS dried cilantro
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper (or can be fresh ground black pepper)
  • 1 TBS onion powder or dried minced onion
  • 1.5 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1 tsp jalapeño powder (or wasabi powder or dried jalapeños**)
  • 3 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves (or ½ tsp powdered thyme)
  • Combine all in a bowl and mix well.
  • Fresh Quick Salsa for Healthy Snacking
  • 5 roma tomatoes (diced – seeds are just fine)
  • 1 med white onion, small dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rough chop
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
  • 1/2 orange/yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
  • 1/2 TBS olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 TBS of the Salsa Seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir the oil, salt, pepper, garlic and seasoning. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Add in all of the other ingredients and mix well. Let sit for 15 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning. then stir again and serve with tortilla chips.

Salsa is also a great topping for fish and chicken.

Enjoy!

Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links

SEAFOOD RUB

030807_15051.jpg

030807_15051.jpg (Photo credit: rjamesmitchell)

This is good for a rub on salmon and white fish or mixed with flour/breadcrumbs for a fish fry coating.

Extra can be stored in an air-tight container or in a ziplock bag with the extra air squeezed out.

Seafood Rub (makes about 1.5 cups)

  • 1 cup Oldbay seasoning
  • 1 TBS fresh ground pepper
  • ½ TBS salt (or omit, the Oldbay seasoning does contain salt)
  • 2 TBS lemon peel (or lemon zest)
  • 1.5 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 TBS paprika
  • 2 TBS thyme leaves (or 1 TBS powdered thyme)
  • 1TBS celery seed (or .5 TBS celery salt – just omit any other salt)
  • 1 TBS ginger powder
  • 2 TBS dried cilantro

Combine all in a bowl and mix well.

Use as a rub on fish, shell fish or poultry. Can also be combined with sour cream or mayonnaise for a dip or condiment on sandwiches, seafood cakes, etc.. If using as a condiment, add in rough chopped capers and/or gerkins to create a tarter sauce. You can even toss with potatoes or cauliflower to give them a little zip as a side dish.

You can also use fresh lime or lemon juice squeezed over the items when cooking.

Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links 

Greek Spice and Dip Herb Blend

This is meant to mix up so it is on hand to change-up the seasoning for your easy week night dinners.

This is a great base for a salad dressing, mixed with sour cream/yogurt for a dip or Mayonaise for an easy sandwich spread.

It is great to season chicken, pork, fish, vegetables, tomato sauces for pastas.

You can make up a batch and easily store the dried herbs in an air tight container or in a zip lock bag with the extra air removed.

INGREDIENTS

Herbs: Thyme, oregano and rosemary

Herbs: Thyme, oregano and rosemary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(makes about 1/4 cup of seasoning)

  • 2 tsp dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp dried Mint
  • 1/2 tsp dried Thyme (powder or leaves)
  • 1 tsp  marjoram (or increase Oregano if you do not have)
  • 2 tsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp dried minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 tsp dried Basil
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 TBS Paprika
  • 1 tsp dried Dill
  • 1 tsp finely chopped dried Rosemary
  • 1 tsp fresh Ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt

MIX all in a food process and pulse to combine.  If you don’t have one, that is ok.  The food processor turns this more into a powder which in this case I like better. But it works just fine mixing the ingredients in a bowl.

Good on seafood (salmon), poultry with fresh lemon juice squeezed on during cooking.

Have fun experimenting. Check out this page for more Spice Ideas and Links  

Asian Spice Blend for Dressings and Dips

sauces

sauces (Photo credit: namealus)

This is a easy blend to make and does not contain salt, as it is expected to be used with Soy Sauce or other sauces that may already contain salt.

Some of the ingredients in the list may not be readily available at your supermarket, they can be purchased online at Amazon, or I also listed substitutions.

This is a great base for a salad dressing, flavored soy sauce for sushi or meat dipping. You can make up a batch and easily store the dried herbs in an air tight container or in a zip lock bag with the extra air removed. Also, if you make up the dressing or seasoned dipping sauce, you can store this for a while as it does not contain any perishable items.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 TBS toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 TBS orange peel or zest
  • 3 TBS freeze-dried ginger or ginger powder
  • 3 TBS freeze-dried spring onion mix or dried onion flakes
  • 2 TBS dried bell peppers (can omit if you do not have them)
  • 1 tsp Shichimi Togerashi or ½ tsp red pepper powder
  • ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic powder

MIX all in a bowl and toss to combine.

For a quick salad dressing:

  • 2 TBS Sesame Oil
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
  • 1 TBS Mirin
  • 2 TBS of the above Asian blend

Combine in a glass jar with a lid, and shake well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. For a thicker dressing, you can add 1/2 TBS honey. Adding sliced scallions is a good touch as well.

For a quick dipping sauce:

  • 1/2 TBS Sesame Oil
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 TBS of the above Asian blend

Combine in a glass jar with a lid, and shake well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.  Adding sliced scallions is a good touch as well.

Have fun experimenting.
Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links 

New Tab – Cooking and Food Tips

New Tab – Cooking and Food Tips

Check this out for some common tips. If you have an idea for another entry – please let me know!

Looking for More Spice Blends?

Looking for More Spice Blends?

Check out this page if you would like to see more spice blends and tips to experiment with what you have in your cabinet.

Dill Spice and Dip Salt Blend

sauces

sauces (Photo credit: namealus

Some of the ingredients in the list may not be readily available at your supermarket, they can be purchased online at Amazon, or I also listed substitutions.

This is meant to mix up so it is on hand to change up your easy week night dinners.

This is a great base for a salad dressing, mixed with sour cream/yogurt for a dip or Mayonaise for an easy sandwich spread.

You can make up a batch and easily store the dried herbs in an air tight container or in a zip lock bag with the extra air removed.

INGREDIENTS

MIX all in a food process and pulse to combine.  If you don’t have one, that is ok.  The food processor turns this more into a powder which in this case I like better. But it works just fine mixing the ingredients in a bowl.

Good on seafood (salmon), poultry with fresh lemon juice squeezed on during cooking.

Tzatziki / Raita Dip

  • 2 TBS Dill spice blend (from above)
  • 16 oz Plain Yogurt or Sour Cream
  • 3 Scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup english cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

Combine all in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.  Stir, tasted and adjust with more seasoning if necessary.

Great with warm Naan bread or Pita bread, as a vegetable dip or as a crunchy topping on baked potatoes.

Have fun experimenting. Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links

Fish, Chicken Pork Seasoned Salt

This is a continuation of my tour through my Spice Cabinet. This one is a pretty generic blend of seasoning that can be used in all kids of dishes. It is easy, pull it out and sprinkle it on your protein and eat away.

This is so easy for a simple pan seared or grilled dish. And great on potatoes, rice, pasta, and vegetables as well.

**There are some ingredients in the list that may not be found in your grocery store. However, they can easily be ordered off Amazon for a decent price. They are good staple to have as you start enjoying building your own spice mixtures.

Store the extra spices in an air-tight container or ziplock bag with the extra air removed.

Fish / Chicken Salt Mix (makes about ½ cup)

  • 4 TBS kosher salt
  • 1 TBS fresh ground black pepper
  • 1.5 TBS lemon or orange peel/zest
  • 1 TBS freeze dried ginger** or ginger powder
  • 1 TBS granulated garlic
  • 2 TBS dried minced onion (or 1 TBS granulated onion powder)
  • 2 TBS freeze dried bell pepper**
  • 1 TBS freeze-dried celery leaves/stalks** (or .5 TBS celery seed)
  • 1 TBS dried parsley

Put all into a food processor and blend until any large chunks are broken down.

If you don’t have a food processor you can use a blender, pestle and mortar or just use as is.

To use, just sprinkle on and cook as usual. Also good to mix with sour cream or yogurt (and let rest in the fridge for 1 – 2 hours) to make a easy flavorful dip.

Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links

 

Asian Style Seasoning Mix

spice mix

spice mix (Photo credit: romanlily)

I have a pantry full of dried herbs and spices, and certain dishes I make often I use the same spices but then my counter is cluttered with spice bottles and little room for much else. So I decided to premix the spices so they are ready at hand for quick dinners, dips, herbed bread, etc..

The first on is a take on a spice mixture I found at the supermarket spice isle. It is great on poultry, fish and shellfish. It does have some ingredients that are not readily available in most supermarkets (**), however, you can buy them on amazon. They can be used not only for this mixture, but in other mixtures or other dishes.

There will be a number of spice mixture recipes over the next month and a half, so keep your eyes open for them if you are interested in different ways to spice up your meals.

The other plus to this is, YOU control the salt and ingredients. If you have an herb garden in the summer, and have too much to use at once, dry them and use them in the mixtures.

Store in air tight container, zip lock bag with air removed, or in a vacuum sealed plastic bag.

Asian Style Salt Mixture

Makes approximately 1/2 – 2/3rds cup. Less if you omit the salt.

  • 2 TBS Kosher Salt (optional – if on a low or no-salt diet)
  • 1.5 tsp freeze dried ginger**
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger (if you can not find the freeze-dried ginger, increase to 2 tsp)
  • 2 TBS toasted sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 2 TBS freeze-dried bell peppers**
  • 1 TBS dried minced onion
  • 1 tsp dried orange peel (or you can use fresh orange zest in the same amount)
  • ½ TBS paprika
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp wasabi powder
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp Sesame Oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a small dry pan, heat over med-high heat, then add the sesame seeds. Stir often and don’t take your eyes off it. It can go from toasty brown to burnt in a second. It is done when they turn a golden brown.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer the sesame seeds to small container to cool off.
  3. In the mean time, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine.
  4. Add in the sesame seeds, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir well to combine the wet and dry ingredients. Mash any clumps with the back of the spoon.
  5. Optional – you can put all in a food processor and blend to reduce the size of the chunks and further combine the flavors.

To use, sprinkle on fish, chicken, potatoes, add to a stir fry, sauces, or anything else that comes to mind.

To make a dip, mix about 1 TBS of the mixture with 1 cup sour cream. Let sit in the refrigerator 1 – 2 hours before serving.

I like using this to season rice. You can add it during the cooking process, or mix after the rice is done.

Another idea is to add some with extra virgin olive oil or butter over med heat, once the oil or butter is hot, toss with steamed or blanched vegetables.

Check out this page for additional Spice Ideas and Links

Blue Cheese Sauce with Bacon and Chips

I had something very similar to this at a restaurant recently with my parents. It was mind stopping delicious and gone before the waiter took our entree order. I wanted more and said I would come up with a recipe for something similar so here it is in time for a super bowl party or to just eat.

In the restaurant they used homemade potato chips. You can use anything. In the picture I used toasted pita chips. If you do decide to use potato chips, I would recommend the kettle chips as they do not get soggy very fast. It can also be used as a dip (good with veggies too) instead of drizzled on as I chose to do.

IMG_0764

Blue Cheese, Bacon on Chips

This makes about 1.5 cups of dip/sauce

Ingredients:

1 – 1.5 cups Heavy Cream (additional if needed to thin out the sauce) you can substitute with milk if needed

1package of crumbled Blue or Gorgonzola cheese (Goat cheese works well too)

1/2 small spanish onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

.5 TBS butter

1/4 TBS olive oil

2 stalks/sprigs fresh oregano, leaves only

1/4 tsp Tabasco (or any hot sauce about 8 drops)

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 package low sodium bacon, diced

1/2 small red onion, very fine dice (you can also use scallions)

For serving, a regular bag of kettle potato chips, toasted pita chips and/or cut up veggies.

  • In a med sized pan, put over med heat. Add in the butter and the oil. Heat until the butter melts and starts to bubble, then add in the garlic and the spanish onion (NOT THE RED ONION). Saute until onion and garlic is soft (about 5 minutes), then set aside to cool.
  • Cook the bacon. Over med heat, add the diced bacon to the pan and cook until crisp turning a couple of times so both sides are cooked. Remove from pan when done and drain on paper towels. Set aside for later.
  • In a food processor/blender, add 1/2 of the cheese, 1 cup of the cream, oregano, tabasco, onion and garlic mixture, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Taste and add more cream if too thick. Then taste again and adjust the salt, pepper and tabasco until you reach the flavor you like.
  • Arrange the chips on a serving platter/plate, and drizzle the sauce over the chips. Top off with the red onion/scallions, extra blue cheese crumbles and bacon. Then EAT!

I hope you enjoy this simple appetizer people pleaser, I certainly did!

HAPPY NOSHING.

Spicy Hot Pepper Mash – How to Preserve That Bounty of Summer Peppers

Ristras of jalapeños, other chili peppers, and...

Ristras of jalapeños, other chili peppers, and garlic at a market in Montréal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have my deck garden and plant a few different hot pepper plants for my son. He loves spicy foods. Habenaros and Jalapeños love the location on my deck and grow like crazy. I can have 100+ in one season. The thing is, I can NEVER eat that many. So I instead of buying hot sauce, I make a mash that lasts a while, since it is like pickling. And you can also freeze it in smaller portions to use at later dates.

When using the peppers, you can decide how hot you want it. Keep the seeds and membranes for maximum heat, or trim the peppers and throw them away. You can also do some with seeds and membrane and clean the rest. Your call.  You can use any peppers you have, it does not have to be Habenaros and Jalapeños.

This recipe takes seconds to make (unless you are trimming off the seeds and membranes). And you will need a food processor or blender, if you do not have either, then you will have to dice the peppers and other ingredients as fine as you can.

Ingredients

Jalapeños

15 – 24 habenaros, prepped as you prefer

3 – 10 jalapeños, prepped as you prefer

1 small green pepper or 1/2 of a large one, seeds removed and roughly chopped

1/4 of a large red onion, roughly chopped

4 med cloves garlic, peeled

2 – 3 TBS vinegar (cider, white, red or white wine, – use what you like)

1 – 2 tsp of salt

Put all in a food processor and blend on high until you have a pulpy liquid-ish mash.

Taste it. Does it need more vinegar? More salt? Add what you think it needs.

Store it in a glass jar and use a tsp or so as needed.

Ideas, Add to :

  • Salsa
  • Sauces
  • Marinades
  • Fish, chicken, beef as an enhancement
  • Combine with herbs and use as a chimichurri
  • StirFry’s
  • Breads
  • Batters for coating chicken, fish, etc…
  • Mix with melted butter and brush on corn on the cob or over veggies
  • Spice up your condiments: Mayo, Ketchup, Mustard, BBQ Sauce
  • Spice up your burgers, add to your burger, meatloaf or meatball mix

Easy Veggie & Cheese Pie, Seconds anyone?

Vegetable Quiche

Delicious Cheese and Vegetable Pie

I was making a nice early dinner/ late lunch for Mother’s day. I saw something similar to this as a tart, and I thought – what a great alternative to the beef that was planned. It can double as a vegetarian option, but everyone will love it. It is also a great dish to cut up and freeze in individual, bite sized for an app or family portions. It is very versatile and anything goes. Use the flavors and ingredients you love.

I make this crust free for those not needing the extra calories, gluten or carbs. I also roast my own tomatoes, vegetables, shred my own cheese from blocks of cheese, etc. HOWEVER, you do not have to. There are plenty of short cuts in the super market you can tap into to make this quick or lower fat. The one thing you really can’t change is the final baking time.

SO get out that glass cake pan, pie tin (may need two) and/or individual tart/cupcake/cheese cake pans. Making these as mini cupcakes, takes a little longer to assemble, but makes a great presentation and appetizer option. These can be served hot or at room temp. I even ate the left overs cold and it was a great on the go breakfast.

As I typically do, I will offer time saving and other options. The one great thing about cooking is you can make any recipe your own to fit into your diet or your families tastes. EX: Don’t like mushrooms, don’t use them.

I used 2 8×8 square pans for this recipe. Cut it in half if you only need one. The effort is the same, so making more and freezing for future consumption, is a bonus.

Ingredients:

2 small zucchini, cut into thin rounds

2 small summer squash/yellow squash, cut into thin rounds

1cup Fresh Mozzarella, diced (or 1.5 cups shredded full fat, low fat, skim, etc..)

1 cup herbed goat cheese, crumbled (or herbed feta or sharp provolone- you can use plain, low fat or non-fat. I like the herbed because it already introduces more flavor)

1.5 cup shredded parmesan cheese (or Italian mix shredded cheese, low skim or low fat)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (not fresh for this one)

6 roma tomatoes, sliced into 3rds (You can substitute with 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes)

1 pkg baby spinach

1 med onion, sliced into 1/2 moons

2- 3 TBS Fresh herbs (any of the following: oregano, basil, thyme, majorom, parsley), sliced into ribbons, or just removed from the branch depending on size)

*** If you don’t have the fresh herbs, use about 1 TBS dried herbs, crushed

3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 TBS olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 TBS dried Oregano

3 large eggs

1 cup half and half

1/2 cup heavy cream (or double the half and half)

salt and pepper

If using more than one pan, after preparing, be sure to split the ingredients in 1/2 to have a consistent and balanced outcome.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  1. Spray some pam or olive oil on the bottom of your baking dish (or dishes).
  2. Place the zucchini and summer squash on a platter or in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt, and set aside for about 15 minutes. This will help them to release some of their liquid so you don’t end up with a soggy dish.
  3. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried oregano (you can use dried basil, thyme instead)
  4. Roast the tomatoes in the oven for about 20 – – 30 minutes so they are 1/2 dried. still some juice, but enough evaporated to concentrate the flavors and reduce the amount of liquid in the dish. (If you substitute sun dried tomatoes, you can skip this step)
  5. Making the sautéed spinach (if you wish) – in a pan, sauté 1 TBS olive oil, garlic and onions over med heat for about 7 minutes (until the onions wilt). It is important to watch this as you do onto want the garlic to burn. You can add the garlic after 3 minutes of sautéing the onions if you wish.
  6. Add in the spinach with the garlic and onions, do a couple grinds (about 1/2 tsp) of black pepper, and stir every few minutes until the spinach is wilted. You may have to add the spinach in batches (handful at a time). You can also use a different green that you may prefer. Set aside to cool slightly.
  7. Place the 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the shredded parmesan cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese in a bowl and toss to mix. This is your topping. Set aside.
  8. Rinse the zucchini and summer squash to wash off the extra salt, and pat dry with paper towels or spin in a salad spinner.
  9. Alternate placing the zucchini and summer squash to line the bottom of the pan(s) (you can skip this step if you use pie crust).
  10. Top the bottom layer with herb goat cheese, 1 cup shredded parm (or shredded italian mix), chopped fresh herbs.
  11. Add the roasted tomatoes (or sun dried tomatoes).

    Assembling the Pie, part 1

    Assembling the Pie, part 1

  12. Top the tomatoes with the 1 cup diced fresh mozzarella.

    Assembling, Step 2

    Assembling, Part 2

  13. Spoon the sautéed spinach over the top of the mozzarella.

    Assembling, part 3

    Assembling, part 3

  14. Then use the remaining zucchini and summer squash to put another layer on top of the whole shebang.
  15. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, cream/half and half, season with pepper until the eggs are mixed with the cream.
  16. Pour the egg mixture over the layered “pie”.
  17. FINALLY, top it all with the cheese mix you set aside in step 7.

    Assembling, part 4

    Assembling, part 4

  18. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center is cooked through. You can use a knife to test the center like you would a cake. If it comes out clean, it is cooked through. If not, turn down the heat of the oven to 300 and let bake, checking after every 5 – 7 minutes to be sure nothing burns or over cooks.
VEGETABLE AND CHEESE PIE

VEGETABLE AND CHEESE PIE

Let cook before cutting and then serve as you wish.

If making individual “cups”, then build it the same way, but use less ingredients to accommodate the size of pan, dishes you are using. To save time, just make a big batch, and cut up into single serving squares or use a cookie cutter to cut out a specific shape to make it more “Gourmet”.. Keep the scrapes for a good snack.

This can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerate. Take it out of the fridge and bring to room temp about 30 – 60 minutes. Then put in a 280 – 300 degree oven to warm. It could take about an hour for the center to warm. But what this does is allows you to set out and sit for a while, for self service, pot-luck or passed apps. If you want it HOT, preheat the oven to 350 and heat for about 30 – 40 minutes until the center is hot. Then serve immediately.

ALTERNATIVES:

  • Any of the cheeses can be substituted out: Use Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Provolone, Asagio, etc… Whatever you like. But keep the parm as it is really useful to make a nice brown crust topping, adds a nice flavor, a little salt, etc..
  • You can use breadcrumbs as a topping. This recipe was avoiding carbs as some of my guests were on low carb diets. I can live with out the pie crust and bread crumb topping, but not without my CHEESE! :
  • Use all Egg Whites (4 eggs instead of 3) to reduce cholesterol
  • Chopped sun dried tomatoes with some of it’s oil can be used in place of oven roasted tomatoes to save you time. The oil will mix with the cheese and egg mixture to give good flavor.
  • Skip the spinach if you wish.
  • Add sliced mushrooms when sautéing the onions, garlic and spinach
  • Blanch some broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, green beans, or peas, etc.. and toss it in if you wish.
  • Use eggplant instead or in addition to the summer squash and zucchini
  • Use whipped potatoes for the bottom layer
  • Use a pie crust – homemade or frozen – pre-bake according to your recipe or the directions so it does not become soggy
  • Add cooked Ham, bacon, sausage, etc

These types of dishes are great ways to get vegetables into a meal… and it can actually become a meal in itself.

Out of this world Salmon Tartare

Salmon Tartare

Layered Salmon Tartare with Avocado

I made this for mother’s day and it received rave reviews.There are 4 parts to make this crazy good, and all are simple. You can pare it down to one, two or three parts if desired. It is very important you get sushi grade salmon, as it will be served raw. You can use frozen salmon filets, since the freezing process does make it as close to sushi grade as possible – just does not taste as fresh. But heck – depending on your budget and location, use what you can find, but be safe and select either frozen or ask the fish department for sushi grade and confirm it is sushi grade.  If you can’t find it – look to the bottom of this post for alternate ideas.

Enough lecture, now on to the delicious Salmon Tartare:

Avocado Base

1 large ripe avocado, diced

1 limes, juiced

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 TBS minced ginger

1/4 cup minced pea shoots (or 1 TBS fresh cilantro)

2 TBS minced red onion

1 jalapeño pepper, diced (optional for a kick)

1 TBS Wasabi (optional for a kick)

salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl – taste and adjust seasoning – salt, lemon, lime. Cover and refrigerate 1 – 3 hours before serving.

Salmon Tartare

1/2 LB sushi grade salmon, minced (freezing for 2 hours will help mincing go much easier and faster)

1 TBS ginger, minced

1/4 cup diced, peeled and seeded cucumbers

1 TBS sesame oil

1/2 lime, juiced

1 TBS lemon juice

1 TBS minced chives

1 TBS minced shallots

1 TBS minced red onion

salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, taste and adjust seasoning – salt, lemon, lime. Cover and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours before serving.

Creme Fraiche

1/2 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)

1 TBS red onion minced

1 TBS dill chopped

1 tsp lemon juice

salt and pepper

Whisk all in a bowl, taste and adjust seasoning – salt, pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or over night.

Topping

2 TBS Tobiko (caviar) – optional – but gives it a nice look and crunch

Spoon on top when ready. This is an inexpensive caviar that can be found is most large supermarkets. It is the same kind that is served on most sushi. It does come in different flavors. I use the orange version, but you can also use the wasabi or other versions. The wasabi gives a little kick.

Assembling

If you have a circular mold, this is the time to use it, if not – just have fun.

Put down the Avocado first, then top with the salmon, drizzle with the creme fraiche (sour cream), and then top with the caviar.

Serve with crackers or thick cut potato chips. I made the potato chips myself (gone by the time I took the pict), but it can be labor intensive since I had to do in batches. But given the reactions from my guests, they were a big hit. Perhaps, I will do them again. I just have to reserve a day and make sure I have some great music playing with a nice glass of wine

OPTIONS!

This would not be a complete post without options. Can’t find sushi grade salmon? Below are a couple other ideas that will work and still be fantastic. When cooking the below, sauté with garlic, white wine and olive oil – salt and pepper of course.

Shrimp – cooked and diced

Crab – cooked and diced

Lobster – cooked and diced – good summertime change-up

White fish – cooked and shredded

Tuna – Cooked and diced (if raw – make sure it is sushi grade)

Vegetarian/Vegan option – Blanched asparagus, green beans, peas, broccoli, tomatoes, watermelon, melon, etc. (one or more) – diced

Toss with a TBS low sodium soy sauce for another flavor enhancer